SpaceX Crew Dragon astronauts describe thrilling return to Earth
Plunging back to Earth in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule Sunday amounted to a high-speed thrill ride, astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken reported Tuesday. The fiery, flawlessly-controlled descent to splashdown went off without a hitch — a major step toward certifying the vehicle for operational flights.
"What a ride!" Behnken tweeted, sharing long-range tracking camera footage of the Crew Dragon's dramatic descent.
The Crew Dragon splashed down south of Pensacola, Florida, amid dozens of boaters, some motoring close to the gently rocking capsule despite earlier Coast Guard warnings to stay clear. The spacecraft, with Hurley and Behnken still strapped in their seats, was hauled aboard a SpaceX recovery ship without incident.
It was the first water landing for astronauts or cosmonauts returning from orbit since the final Apollo capsule closed out a joint flight with a Russian Soyuz spacecraft 45 years ago.
Behnken and Hurley, veterans of two space shuttle flights each, said the ride down was possibly more exciting than either expected. Behnken provided a blow-by-blow description Tuesday during a virtual news conference at the Johnson Space Center.
"Once we descended a little bit into the atmosphere, Dragon really came alive. It started to fire thrusters and keep us pointed in the appropriate direction. The atmosphere starts to make noise. You can hear that rumble outside the vehicle," he said.
"And as the vehicle tries to control (its orientation), you feel a little bit of that shimmy in your body, and our bodies were much better attuned to the environment (after two month ...
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